I am decidedly NOT a morning person. I have often thought that this was a key factor in my career choice since trauma and acute care surgeons are often expected to be on their A-game in the middle of the night. I am a pretty amazing middle of the night person and, if that night stretches into chronological morning, I can keep the A-game going. But, if allowed to put head to pillow, dawn will yield a very cranky person.
In college I avoided classes that started before 11am. I am pretty sure I showed up at that one 8:30a Tu/Th class only for exams (physics 1a/b anyone?). Med school started every day at 8am during pre-clinicals and I often struggled with that arrival time choosing to put forward my best effort for labs later in the day (thank you lab mates who were excellent note-takers!). On clinical rotations I figured out how to show up for 4:45a pre-rounds, but I am pretty sure that only worked because it was still technically the middle of the night so my body was okay with that.
Even now, as in every day during residency and fellowship, when there are patients waiting at the other end, I can make early am arrivals happen albeit with a fair bit of crankiness as my poor husband kicks me out the door with coffee in hand. Honestly, it’s a miracle I ever chose a career where 5:30a rounds, 6a meetings, and 7a pre-op times are the norm. And on the days when there are no patients waiting at the other end, I continue to struggle with human functions in the morning. People at work often ask me why I am angry as they pass me in the halls at 6, 7, 8am…. I’m not angry. I’m just a cranky Not-A-Morning-Person.
Unlike my college and early med school days, these days an 8:30a start of anything (signout rounds, soccer games, flights…) would be welcome. Eleven am is shockingly late to me now; so in that regard my Not-A-Morning-Personitis has abated somewhat over the years.
But here I am. It’s the life I have chosen. Most of my work days start well before 8am and last well over twelve hours. Typically, I work 26 such days a month. And the Not-A-Morning-Personitis is still severe enough that I have been unable to incorporate pre-work early morning exercise into my daily regimen. Interestingly, when I travel (both with and without family) I am somehow able to swing pre-dawn jaunts at the hotel gym or outdoor runs. Perhaps this is due to the unfamiliar bed causing less restful sleep or the fact that even most surgery meetings don’t start until 8a or the allure of a new venue to run or the proximity of a Pure Barre studio or the late nights at the bar with colleagues (remember Vegas friends? I still got my money’s worth from the $15 gym fee)…
But, in the past I have not been able to recreate this early morning motivation in my home environment. Until last week, I could count the number of my non-weekend off morning workouts on the fingers of ONE hand.
Last week I was jet lagged; and since the current me is actively trying to dispel excuses to not exercise I channeled my wide awakeness at 3:30a into several morning workouts in a row. The jet lag dissipated eventually, but then I found myself angling for a morning workout anyway. This was, in fact, a miracle.
I could hardly recognize myself. Six morning workouts in a row including a post-call workout on my first week back in the country. They weren’t always hard workouts but I was up and I was moving. And my Fitbit was congratulating me for all the extra steps squeezed into my day. I have now exercised in the morning on 9 of the last 10 days with an evening workout on the off-day.
Here’s why I think I have to make this work and rid myself of my chronic Not-A-Morning-Personitis for good.
1) I don’t spend the rest of my day with my inner voice badgering me about how I have to swing an evening workout only to feel bad when I don’t make it happen.
2) I save my hair and the environment by cutting down to a shower a day since the post workout rinse doubles as the morning rinse.
3) I get to catch up on DVR’d episodes of House Hunters because, let’s face it, the 10p weeknight airings of new episodes are just too late for someone who is as tired and as cranky as I am.
4) I don’t have to have the difficult inner debate between choosing ME and my workout to be healthy vs choosing being available for the kids’ bedtime routines to be a good mom.
5) My morning crankiness dissipates during the workout so fewer people are frightened by me when I finally get to work.
6) Post-workout endorphins, which propel me into a happier rest-of-the-morning after am workouts, tend to result in undesired sleeplessness after pm workouts.
7) However, sometimes I still feel like working out again in the evenings and I like 2-a-day workout me much better than Not-A-Morning-Person me.
8) It propels a cycle of positive self re-enforcement; I find myself more likely to engage in healthy work day behaviors like taking the stairs or skipping the bowl of Twix in the ICU when I already feel good about having conquered a morning workout.
9) Who wouldn’t want to see Fitbit’s crazy happy face before dawn; it is one of the few positive digital messages I ever get these days.
10) I will occasionally catch a pretty sunrise.